The US agrees to withdraw troops from Niger

All US soldiers will leave Niger, ending their role in the fight against Islamist insurgents.

Military leaders in the West African country have been seeking closer ties with Russia since seizing power in a coup last year.

On Friday, the US also announced that it had agreed to close its drone base at Agadez, in the Sahara.

Niger is located in Africa’s Sahel region, which is considered the Islamic State group’s new global epicenter.

The US relies on Niger as a primary base for monitoring regional jihadist activities.

An American delegation will travel to Niamey, Niger’s capital, within days to arrange an orderly withdrawal of more than a thousand troops.

Friday’s announcement follows talks in Washington between US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell and Nigerien Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine.

It is seen as a blow to the administration of US President Biden, which had opposed this measure.

The $100 million US military base was built there just six years ago and has played a key role in the US and French strategy to combat jihadists in West Africa.

But Niger’s relations with both Western countries deteriorated after last year’s coup, and military leaders have sought closer security ties with Russia.

Dozens of Russian military instructors have arrived in Niger in recent weeks, bringing with them an advanced air defense system, according to state media reports.

Niger has also distanced itself from local democracies and sought stronger regional alliances with junta-led countries Burkina Faso and Mali.

The trio have left ECOWAD – the West African regional body that opposed their military takeovers.

They have also abandoned the French-backed G5 Sahel force, saying it was ineffective and undermining African sovereignty, and launched their own defense pact called the Alliance of Sahel States.